SpaceX Splashdown

Posted: August 4, 2020

On Sunday, two astronauts who launched from American soil returned to Earth in a dramatic splashdown. While a tropical storm pounded Florida’s east coast, the "star sailors" had the ride of their lives into the sea along Florida’s west coast. Their space capsule parachuted into the calm Gulf waters about 40 miles from Pensacola, Florida. Sunday’s splashdown ended an extraordinary test flight by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company.

Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken went into space on May 30. You can read about that here: Taking Teamwork to Space.

Two months later, the astronauts are back on Earth. It took them less than a day to travel from the International Space Station home. The return from space was fast and furious, bumpy and hot. The spacecraft went from a screaming speed of 17,500 miles per hour (mph) to 350 mph as it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. It slowed to just 15 mph at splashdown. The capsule was scorched and blistered from extreme temperatures. But the astronauts inside stayed safe.

“Welcome back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX,” said Mission Control.

Within an hour of the splashdown, a SpaceX recovery ship hoisted the capsule aboard. After medical checkups, the astronauts flew by plane to Houston, Texas. They were greeted by a small gathering of family and officials, including Mr. Musk. He was relieved that the mission was a success.

They were also congratulated by President Trump and Vice President Pence. “Great to have NASA astronauts return to Earth after a very successful two-month mission. Thank you to all!” the President tweeted.

What’s next? SpaceX will inspect the Dragon capsule and give it a makeover. If all goes according to plan, it will return to space next spring. As for the astronauts––they’re headed home. Mr. Behnken’s son had a message for his dad on Sunday morning. “Don’t worry, you can sleep in tomorrow,” said six-year-old Theo.

The SpaceX capsule splashes down on Sunday, August 2, 2020, in the Gulf of Mexico. (Cory Huston/ NASA via AP)